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Sooner or Later or Never Never: 08/22/09

The classic reprint for the June/July issue ofThe Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction has me scratching my head. Yes, it's funny as the introduction claims. Yes, it's character driven as the magazine always promises. But it has nothing to do with science or fantasy. It did though get the fiction part right, I'm guessing.

The story in question is "Sooner or Later or Never Never" by Gary Jennings. It is yet another tale of a missionary's misadventures among the "savages." In this case it is the Anula tribe of aborigines who live in the outback somewhere vaguely in the region of Darwin. The unfortunate missionary is Crispin Mobey who apparently has gone on to have adventures in a great number of stories.

So Crispin Mobey in the late 1960s heads to the outback based on outdated information. He goes with two truckloads of beads and his enthusiasm. Along the way he tries to learn the Anula language from a defrocked German and learns absolute rubbish. He's also so obviously in over his head that the local Australians have fun pouring on the Strine. Perhaps if he'd had a copy of The Australian Slanguage by Bill Horadge he would have done better.

The problem I have with the story is one of genre. As far as I can tell, it's not set in the near future; it's not an alternate history; there's no unusual technology, no aliens, no robots or anything else usually found in science fiction. On the fantasy side of things there isn't even magical realism or a hint at the Dreamtime. Nothing unusual happens beyond what usually happens in these sorts of missionary stories. Heck, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad has more fantasy in it than "Sooner or Later or Never Never" does.

If you like this sort of story, I also recommend: Fiction by Ara13.

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